When it comes to the excesses of commercialism and materialism obscuring the real meaning of Christmas, it has all been said before. Apart from the fact that most of us spend too much money at Christmas, we put ourselves under enormous pressure to come up with a gift that is just right. So how can we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas without endorsing all the excesses?
Top of my list has to be Tearfund and Christian Aid. Tearfund’s Living Gifts is a great place to start and a wonderful gift idea. I have used these in the past, and I am happy to report that the recipients have been delighted. This year, these kinds of gifts have an added significance for us following our visit to Ethiopia. Two congregations which I visited recently gave me Living Gifts following my report on our travels and it was very thoughtful and most appropriate.
Christian Aid’s equivalent is Present Aid which allows recipients to specify the object of the gift. In our materialistic Western society, these options are not only interesting but must be an essential item on our list of possible Christmas gifts. I suspect that most people will appreciate the thoughtfulness and intention of giving such gifts.
The Bible says that Christian giving should be willing and cheerful (II Corinthians 9:7), a regular pattern of life (I Corinthians 16:2), proportionate to one’s ability (I Corinthians 16:2), generous (II Corinthians 8:2,3) and sacrificial (Mark 12:42-44). The Bible clearly and repeatedly emphasises the need for Christians to care for the poor as one of the fundamental requirements of the gospel.
The Christmas story reminds us that Jesus himself was born to poor parents and that he had few possessions during his public ministry (Matthew 8:20). He said that as his followers do, or not do, to the hungry, thirsty and naked, so they either do it, or not do it, to him. (Matthew 25:35-45). Paul and the early church took Jesus’ teaching seriously and were “eager” to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10).
With your credit card close by, you don’t even have to move from in front of your computer screen to do this kind of Christmas shopping. Your friends will be delighted, the poor will benefit, and Christ will be honoured. It’s a “win, win, win” situation.